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Brazzil - Politics - July 2003

Who Is Killing Brazil's Leaders?

If you do like conspiracy theories and unsolved mysteries, then
Brazil is the country for you. On the other hand if you are one
of those Arthur Koestler types who believe in coincidence,
then there are coincidences galore as well. Check our
Brazilian list and send your theories or conspiracy speculations.

John Fitzpatrick


Are you the kind of person who likes conspiracy theories? You know the kind of thing: John Kennedy was assassinated because he was having an affair with Marilyn Monroe, who was a Mafia boss's girlfriend; Marilyn Monroe was murdered by the CIA because she knew too much about plans by JFK to assassinate Fidel Castro; Ronald Reagan was a puppet of a group of shadowy right-wing millionaires from California; the US's Middle East policy is directed by the Jewish lobby in Washington, etc.

If you do like conspiracy theories and unsolved mysteries, then Brazil is the country for you. On the other hand if you are one of those Arthur Koestler* types who believe in coincidence, then there are coincidences galore as well.

Check out this list of recent and historical events, and see if you have any theories:

—In mid-June, security guards protecting one of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's sons were shot at as they waited outside a building where he was with his girlfriend. One guard was killed and their car was stolen;

—At the beginning of June, two aides to the PT (Lula's Workers' Party) national leader, José Genoíno, one of Lula's closest advisers, were kidnapped and robbed when three gunmen hijacked their car as they waited for Genoíno to join them outside his home. The two staffers were held for an hour before being released;

—Last October, a bodyguard of the eldest son of São Paulo state Governor Geraldo Alckmin was shot dead, as he waited outside the building where the governor's son was with his girlfriend. Another security guard was wounded in the attack, which was carried out by two gunmen who had tried to steal the car;

Were all three incidents just coincidence, part of the alarming levels of crime that affect the mighty as well as the rest of us in Brazil? None of the politicians involved has suggested any political link, and neither have the police, although they have considered the possibility.

Let us now go back a little further in history and highlight some other incidents:

—On April 19, 1998, Communications Minister Sérgio Motta died in São Paulo. Two days later, on April 21, the leader of the government in the Lower House of Congress, Luís Eduardo Magalhães, died in Brasília. Both were President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's closest political fixers, and both died of heart attacks. Whereas Motta was getting on in years, overweight and in poor health, Magalhães was only 43 and died after a jogging session. Motta was Cardoso's main troubleshooter and Magalhães was tipped as a future presidential candidate;

—In June 1996, Paulo César Farias, a convicted criminal who acted as former President Fernando Collor de Mello's campaign treasurer, was found shot dead in bed. By his side lay the body of his girlfriend, who is alleged to have committed suicide after killing Farias. Four armed policemen were guarding the house in the state of Alagoas when the killings occurred, yet none heard the shots. Farias had been sentenced to four years imprisonment in January of 1994, but in December of the same year he was given conditional freedom by the Supreme Court;

—Former President Collor's brother Pedro died in December 1994 in his mid-thirties, two and a half years after initially accusing Farias of corruption. His accusations later involved his brother, who was then president, and eventually led to impeachment proceedings and Fernando Collor's resignation in December of 1992. His death was said to be of natural causes;

—Ulysses Guimarães, one of the architects of the 1988 Constitution Reform and a veteran politician who helped pave the way back to democracy after two decades of military rule, was presumed killed when a helicopter he was in crashed at sea in October 1992. His body has never been recovered;

—Tancredo Neves, the first civilian president elected at the end of military rule in 1985, became ill and was hospitalized fourteen hours before his inauguration, and died a month later without exercising power for a single second;

—Jânio Quadros, who was elected president in 1961, resigned suddenly after only seven months in office, blaming "hidden reactionary forces." He never gave any satisfactory reason for taking such a step, and took the secret with him to his grave in 1992;

—Juscelino Kubitschek, one of the 20th Century's most dynamic presidents, was killed in a car crash in 1976, when Brazil's military regime was still in place;

—General Humberto Alencar Castelo Branco, the first military dictator, died in a plane crash in 1967 a year after stepping down from office;

—Getúlio Vargas, who stamped his print on Brazil as a virtual dictator over three decades, was found dead in his office in 1954 of what was said to be a self-inflicted gunshot to the heart. He had been under unbearable pressure to resign, and killed himself;

What is interesting in most of these cases is that in general, the official explanation has been accepted, whether people believe it or not. For example, most people do not believe that Farias' girlfriend shot him and then committed suicide but, at the same time, no one—police or journalist—has cared enough to investigate the affair and get to the bottom of it. Good riddance to bad rubbish was the general verdict. Yet, if the official version was wrong, then who killed Farias and his girlfriend? Are the killers still around, perhaps, plotting new murders?

In the case of Tancredo Neves, there were reports that he had, in fact, been poisoned while interned at a military hospital in Brasília before being taken to São Paulo for treatment. According to Ronaldo Costa Couto in his book História Indiscreta da Ditadura e da Abertura (The Indiscrete History of the Dictatorship and Political Opening), a year after Tancredo's death, 36 percent of those polled in a survey believed the death of Neves had been premeditated.**

As for the deaths of Guimarães, Kubitschek and Castelo Branco, perhaps they were genuine accidents. The deaths of Pedro Collor, Motta and Magalhães were also probably of natural causes, but one still cannot help but wonder.

If any readers have other examples of similar, noteworthy "coincidences" or possible conspiracies, I would be interested to hear them.

* Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), Hungarian journalist who wrote about Stalin's show trials in his famous novel Darkness at Noon, spent his later years studying parapsychology and tried to prove pure coincidence was seldom "pure". In Roots of Coincidence, (1972) Koestler tried to find in quantum physics a scientific basis for extrasensory perception. In The Challenge of Change (1973) he linked his theories on coincidence to those of Carl Jung on synchronicity. Like Getúlio Vargas, Koestler killed himself. Unlike Vargas, Koestler's wife joined him in a suicide pact.

** The survey appeared in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper in April of 1986, and showed that 26 percent of those surveyed thought medical incompetence had been to blame for Neves' death, and only 27 percent believed he died of normal complications.


John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações— www.celt.com.br, which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br 

© John Fitzpatrick 2003

This article appeared originally in Infobrazil, at www.infobrazil.com





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